Injecting colour, energy and life into city

Theatre maker and curator Eszter Nemethi talks to us ahead of the Quarter Block Party, February 8 to 10
Injecting colour, energy and life into city
Eszter Nemethi, part of The Quater Block Party crew.

TELL us about yourself;

I’m Eszter, a theatre maker and curator originally from Budapest. I have been living in Cork since 2005 when I arrived somehow in the Capital of Culture. I stayed for love as is often the case and studied Drama and Theatre Studies in UCC.

After, I founded Makeshift Ensemble with a bunch of very young people and seven years on I am one of the four people behind Quarter Block Party (QBP).

I am also now living between both Brussels and Cork. I am mainly responsible for the public art programming at QBP, the commissions we have each year responding to North and South Main Street.

At the moment, I am busy developing eight new works for the festival which is quite a challenge, but it is exciting. We have been collaborating with five other European organisations in Europe on an international project called Common Ground and now the artists are returning with a parade, workshops and really beautiful urban interventions. I am also working with a Spanish choreographer Esther Rodriguez-Barbero on a show about Sir Henry’s, which is really exciting after walking past its old site on South Main Street every day for years.

Working with communities and spaces is generally what I do also as an artist (or theatre maker) and I have recently completed a post-master research degree in Brussels focusing on instructions-based performance and border narratives.

Where were you born?

In Budapest, Hungary.

Where do you live?

At the moment I live between Brussels and Cork.

Family?

They are a bit all over Europe, my dad lives in Glasgow, my brother is in Berlin and my mum in Budapest. The rest of my family is largely in Hungary with some other instances of emigration to Germany and Austria.

Best friend?

This is tricky. I am not good at ‘best’ and ‘favourite’ questions, never was. I have many best friends somehow. A best friend in each port, which is probably because of the places I live and lived, and strange families I forged in each.

I have a Hungarian best friend who I’ve known since we were 10, we used to read Harry Potter together and go to theatre classes — now she is a theatre critic.

I have a best friend in Spain who I met in Cork who taught me to cook.

I have a best friend in Cork and we have worked together on Quarter Block Party, but he is more like a little brother.

I have a best friend in Italy with whom I can really argue.

I have a best friend in Brussels who can pluck me out of bad moods with silly photos on Whatsapp. They are all best in different ways.

Earliest childhood memory?

It’s a bit scary, but it is about being underwater. My dad brought me out to the water on a blow-up colourful zebra he bought in Finland and I fell off. I was really little and couldn’t swim. I remember being underwater. I was fished out and it was all OK, but I never went near that zebra again.

Person you most admire?

My best friends.

Person who most irritates you?

Not sure if irritate is the appropriate word, but I find it difficult to deal with patronising people and apparent forms of exploitation. Unfortunately, I work on a field where both these colonial attitudes are quite common, especially towards young female artists.

Who would you like to see as Minister for Finance and why?

Someone who has been homeless, or has the capacity to consider large financial decisions from a perspective from ‘below’ the monetary system, who can differentiate and honour both monetary and other value systems.

Where was your most memorable holiday?

I went to Jordan a few years ago. It was my first time out of Europe and it made me see myself from a very new angle culturally. Until then I never really understood where Hungary ‘stood’. I realised in Jordan how some things I before attributed to ‘being Hungarian’ was in fact just being a bit more eastern. This was in 2015 so flying over the Mediterranean was daunting for me. I also saw corals for the first time.

Favourite TV programme?

I don’t really watch TV.

Favourite radio show?

Normally I listen to a Hungarian radio station called Klub Rádió, which is a way for me to keep in touch with Hungary, it is also one of the few remaining independent media outlets so I find it important to support it. But my favourite radio programme are probably podcasts like The Point of Everything or This American Life, both are really fun to listen to.

Your signature dish if cooking?

It is an odd one but I make a very nice spinach and sweet potato dahl. It is very comforting and a bit spicy and really lovely on rainy winter days.

Favourite restaurant?

It has to be Miyazaki on Friar Street. It’s brilliant, I used to live very near and it reminds me of lovely times and treats.

Last book you read?

Autumn by Ali Smith.

Best book you read?

Agua Viva by Clarice Lispector (I am really under its spell at the moment).

Last album/CD/download you bought?

Off The Map by The Silkroad Ensemble.

Favourite song?

I’m not sure if I have a favourite song. But one I’m listening to a lot lately is Ezt is Elviszem Magammal by KisTehén. It is great and somehow represents a lot of how I feel about leaving countries in the way that maybe it is not quite possible, and that places just become accumulative somewhere inside. The lyrics are by a wonderful Hungarian poet, Virág Erdos, and it is basically a list of things one takes: dreams, expectations of others, city squares, childhood teddys, landscapes, etc.

One person you would like to see in concert?

Hilary Woods. She is headlining Quarter Block Party. I got introduced to her by Aisling and Caoilian, who are programming the music side of the festival, and I am really looking forward to hearing her play in the Triskel in February.

Morning person or night owl?

A morning person, definitely. This is also why I programme the day-time things at Quarter.

Your proudest moment?

I am always very proud when we get to the end of Quarter Block Party. Not sure if it is a proudest moment, but we have a tradition of having the Sing Along Social as the closing event and people seem happy and relieved. It is often the moment the whole festival team is finally together after a crazy, busy weekend and being somehow part of this moment is super-proud.

Spendthrift or saver?

Spendthrift. I never have a lot of money to spend and I am quite good at budgeting, but no, not really a saver. I spend any money I have on books and flights.

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

When I lived full-time in Cork, I lived in Friar Street. Friar Street is great. But obviously, as the public art programmer of a festival on North and South Main Street, my heart and concerns are there. I would love to see laneways opened and the large vacant buildings/plots even temporarily utilised by local traders. There is a really special and old tradition of trading that is still alive on North Main Street and I would love if this was nurtured and the colourful community allowed to flourish. So I would especially like if old routes were reopened and unused spaces used more. To create more vigour and movement.

What makes you happy?

Little things. Sometimes entirely small things can make me happy. Silly jokes, kindnesses, pretty sunsets anything really. This also means small things make me sad, but I learnt to really appreciate my own availability to emotions (and the world). I think this is a lot to do with what I do, also with Quarter Block Party.

How would you like to be remembered?

I am not sure if I ever think about this. But maybe as kind.

What else are you up to at the moment?

I’m in Brussels busy organising a series of talks for artists from different backgrounds and also trying to find funding to launch a magazine in Cologne with an Iranian friend. I’m looking forward to returning to Cork soon and getting into the swing of things for Quarter Block Party.

MORE ABOUT THE FESTIVAL

The Quarter Block Party is set to inject colour, energy, and life, into Cork city from Friday, February 8 to Sunday, February 10.

The festival will sprawl through the city’s streets and venues with more than 50 music, art, and theatre performances.

There will be an exciting range of pop-up and public art events in the shops and outdoor spaces to discover some of the freshest high-calibre artists in music, theatre and dance.

Tickets available now. See www.quarterblockparty.com

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